With 10 days to go until Christmas, I am probably more excited about the holiday season than the grumpy British 8 year-old I see on the tram ride every morning on commute to work. But along with all that added tinsel, fairy lights, and Christmas cookie recipes to try, there is also an added pressure that goes along with this holiday season. If you’re like me, then your Instagram and Pinterest are blowing up with new and creative ways to celebrate this holiday season. I, for one, am a huge fan of these channels on social media. It’s the way of the future in connecting with friends and family. However, once in a while I find that I have to check myself. It’s hard to be a girl in this world, and I know I must guard my heart and my mind from that one thing that can rob us of our joy: comparison. Didn’t a wise woman once say, “Comparison is the thief of joy”? That woman was Eleanor Roosevelt, who at the time was the wife to one of the most powerful men on earth. She probably knew a thing or two about making comparisons.
Personally, I find it most difficult to battle the urge of “comparing myself” to others around the holiday season. It’s around Christmas and New Year’s that I find myself spending more time in front of the mirror and trying to painstakingly document everything I wear, eat, cook, see. The list goes on and on. I’ve had to recently stop myself and ask why. Why do I care so much about what others think of me, particularly on social media?
Between Pinterest and Instagram (I’m a huge fan), I am bombarded on a daily basis with photos of delicious recipes, ‘must-have’ outfits and expert beauty tips. It leaves me with the impression that I need these things to feel good about myself or that I am ‘doing life the right way’. If I’m not ‘instagramming’ my first Christmas tree, perhaps people won’t think I’m festive and sentimental. These are absurd thoughts, yes but I bet you that one of them has popped into your head. I know I’m not the only one.
At 24 in a big city, I have found it’s hard to keep up. Ironically, no one has ever said I should keep up in the first place. In fact, I warn against the temptation to ‘keep up’ – it can lead to feelings of discontentment and comparing yourself to others. I can’t tell you how many times lately I have thought ‘Oh, that’s a lovely dress – I wish I had that’ or my personal favourite ‘Oh look at them having fun. I need to go have fun. I’m missing out!’
Yes, FOMO (the fear of missing out) is a real thing people, and I have noticed in creeping up on me many times in recent months. The irony behind FOMO and other ‘comparison disorders’ (is there such a thing – I’ve just made that up!), is that the very act of comparing yourself keeps you from living a full and vibrant life. Why concern yourself with what everyone else is doing when you could be making memories of your own?
I think ‘making comparisons’ is most difficult for us women. I am in no way saying that men don’t struggle with this. I’m simply suggesting that between pop culture and society’s conception of the ‘ideal woman’, I don’t it’s surprising that many women struggle in this department. I can’t recall how many times I found myself documenting everything James and I do as a newlywed couple, all because I saw some other couple doing the same thing. There is nothing wrong with documenting your ‘firsts’ especially as a newlywed couple (I find these things extremely exciting) but once in a while I have to check my motives. And I’ve realised that there is such a pressure for young married women to act and look a certain way. There have been many occasions where I have been consumed with the idea of being the ‘perfect wife’, all because I saw some woman on TV baking cookies for her husband when he walks in the door or because I saw a girl wearing a sexy dress on her ‘date night’ with her husband. ‘I have to do those things!’ I’ve demanded of myself!
Instead of giving in, I’ve had to take a good hard look in the mirror and come to terms with who I am. And you know what – I love who I am! Not in a selfish way. No, instead of practicing the art of self-loathing (us women are too hard on ourselves), I have been challenged recently by something my pastor said a few weeks ago during a sermon on identity. My identity does not lie in my appearance, my marriage, my job or by the things I can buy. My identity lies in Christ who always thinks I am beautiful and valuable regardless if I think so. And you know what? That realisation is so freeing! It makes ‘comparison-making’ a pointless exercise that’s a waste of my time and emotional energy.
My challenge to you: think about what you’re posting to social media this holiday season. Why do you post the pictures and statuses that you do? What if I said that tomorrow you didn’t have a Twitter or Instagram – how would that make you feel?
Perhaos it’s worth considering: ‘What image of myself am I trying to upload to social media? What is it that I want people to think about me?’ if you find yourself asking yourself struggling with these questions, (don’t worry it means you’re a normal woman!) perhaps you ought to consider whether other peoples’ opinions are worth so much of your time and energy.
What do you think about you? How often do you compare yourself to others?
Don’t worry about trying to be someone else. Just be you. Be the best version of you, not a copy of someone else. There’s nothing more beautiful than that.
My name is Rachel and this is Where I Stand.